6 Writing Excuses Busted (Or How an 11-Year-Old Published Her First Novel)

Writing excuses are easy to come up with. Easy to justify.

But to publish, you’ll need to learn how to avoid using at least six of them—maybe more. My goal is to help you avoid using these six writing excuses by showing you how I overcame them to publish my first novel shortly after my eleventh birthday.

Writing Excuse 1: I Don’t Have Time

Deadline time. I knew to finish on time I’d need to wring every ounce of writing time I could out of life. I quickly washed a potato, threw it in the microwave, and hurried back to the computer to type until the microwave timer beeped. I flipped my potato, rushed back to the computer, and typed until the next beep. Butter and salt for flavor (and inspiration), then back to the computer, taking bites of food in between bursts of thought.

If you want time to write your book, you’ll need to take it wherever you can. Lack of time is probably the biggest issue authors face, which is why I mention it here first. So how can you fit writing into your schedule?

  • Wake up early

Like, really early. If I wanted to get any writing done in the mornings before school started, I had to get up at six AM and write until seven when the house started to stir.

  • Work late

Time and again my parents let me stay up until nearly midnight frantically typing. They mostly forgave my grumpiness the next morning.

  • Cut distractions

While my siblings watched TV or read books, I learned to keep working to bring my story to life. This eventually became a habit, and to this day I often create worlds while my siblings watch someone else’s. What little things take away your free time? Social media? Gaming? Sacrifice these and you’ll find you have more time than you realize for writing—and you won’t even miss those other things.

Writing Excuse 2: I Can Wait Until Later

I started Phoenix Feathers because my dad challenged me to NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—on October 25th. It would have been easy to wait until November to start. But I was like, “Why wait five days for no reason? Can I start now?”

In those first five days, I finished about a chapter a day. Thanks to un-procrastination, I finished the rough draft of my 30,000-word book five days before the end of November.

Not saying I’m scot-free from procrastination. I had about three weeks to complete this post. I kept putting it off in favor of other projects, thinking, “I have plenty of time.”

I finally started two days before deadline. I’m confident saying it’s a lot better being ahead of schedule. At least you’ve started that way.

Writing Excuse 3: I Don’t Know How to End My Story

You know the feeling. You start with a promising setting. Great characters. An intriguing storyline. Then the story dries up because you don’t know where you’re going.

I learned this through sad experience. My brother’s metal modeling sets inspired me to write a book (Metal Earth) about a planet made of metal. Great setting, but I didn’t know where my story was going. I had no outline, no plot, and no destination. Just vague ideas.

Disaster. I floundered after a few chapters. It was like writing with my eyes shut.

I also started Phoenix Feathers without an outline, but my dad knew about my first novel attempt and told me an outline would help.

After I wrote my outline, I had guidelines and a destination while leaving plenty of room to surprise myself with plot twists. It became a lot more fun after laying the right foundation.

Same thing happened with this blog post. No outline, no progress. Full intimidation. With an outline, it became easy and fun.

Moral: Learn to outline, dude.

Writing Excuse 4: I Lose the Flow of My Own Story and Forget Things

Losing the flow happens to everyone. For me, it’s usually when I’m inactive on a book for even a few days. With poor Metal Earth, it became hard to drop back into the story after weeks away. The story flow went kaput.

However, it’s hard to write every day. Maybe you just don’t feel like it. You’re bored of your own story. I get that feeling a lot.

Consistency is the only thing that breaks this down, and that’s the reason NaNoWriMo is so powerful. I wrote probably three and a half hours per day every writing day of that month, and I never lost my place or forgot what I was writing about.

How can you develop your own habit of writing consistently?

Writing Excuse 5: I Have No Motivation to Write

You can break this feeling down with persistence and a little bit of … self-motivation. Let’s just call it a bribe.

With NaNoWriMo, I probably couldn’t have finished in time without “THE BRIBE.”

I alluded to the bribe in my dedication of Phoenix Feathers. My dad offered to buy me and my brother a $20 Lego set each if we completed our books before the end of National Novel Writing Month.

Now, a $20 Lego set for writing a book in a month seemed pretty good to me. But here’s the reality: Sometimes I dogsit a really cute Golden Doodle for $10 an hour. Two hours of that and I could buy my own Legos. We estimate I worked at least 100 hours on my rough draft. If I dog-sat for as long as I worked on my book, I would have made $1,000 dollars last November.

I got a $20 prize and a shiny new novel. It was a way better reward.

The novel was the thing I needed, but the Lego set is the thing I wanted. It’s just tricking your mind by providing the right motivation.

It doesn’t need to be big, but reward yourself with something at big milestones and keep envisioning holding a printed copy in your hands. When I finally got my first author’s copy in the mail, I ran downstairs giggling and hugging my book to my chest. That’s reward enough if you stick with it.

But it could be as simple as promising yourself a favorite snack between chapters or as big as taking a vacation when you type “The End.”

You can also find more subtle means of convincing yourself to write every day.

I’m competitive. Since my big brother was also doing NaNoWriMo, we turned it into a race. Who could type longer? Who could finish a chapter faster? If you know anyone else writing a book, challenge them to a contest. Awaken the fierce desire to win.

Don’t know another author? Challenge yourself by setting goals. Daily word count. Typing speed per chapter. Making your fingers fall off from typing so fast (okay, maybe don’t challenge yourself that much).

Small goals and rewards will push you through doldrums days until you have a good habit that carries you far beyond.

Writing Excuse 6: I’m Not Good Enough

When I started writing Phoenix Feathers, I didn’t know how to type. I wanted to write it by hand, but my dad wouldn’t let me. Most authors don’t have this problem, but I had never really touched a computer. Typing Metal Earth was eight pages of painfully slow pecking, and that was my first real experience with typing.

I complained to my dad while writing Phoenix Feathers: “I have so many ideas and I just can’t type them out fast enough!”

Slowly, though, I sped up. This post went much faster than any page of Phoenix Feathers did. My dad, a professional speed-writer, now calls me “competent.”

With any writing difficulty, work at it until it crumbles.

You might wonder why I saved the “not good enough” excuse for last—especially when established writers still have a hard time valuing their own work when they’ve read so many good books.

I have a natural gift for speed-reading. When I’m in the right mood, I’ll read about thirty full-length novels per month. One of my earliest memories is peering over my dad’s shoulder as he read a Hardy Boys book and wondering why he read so slow. And my dad is a pretty fast reader.

With all the good books I’ve read, I could’ve been intimidated by other authors. Instead I realized I’ve learned grammar, story structure, and creativity from other people’s work. No need to compare my work to theirs.

I actually thought, “I’ll never create something like Lord of the Rings, so why compare?” (I read the trilogy probably three times a year.)

Don’t ignore thoughts of not being good enough, but don’t let them hold you back. Imperfections and all, your writing will be yours. And if you have the occasional cliché, it’ll be your cliché.

***

You’re more ready to write your book than you think. If I can do it, anyone can. You’ll love holding that first book in your hands. End of story.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What are the biggest writing excuses you find yourself battling? Tell us in the comments!

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About Nya Wilcox

Nya Wilcox is an 11-year-old author living in Cache Valley, Utah. She wrote most of her debut novel Phoenix Feathers when she was still 10 and finished it as a late birthday present to herself after an intense 30-day authoring window that spanned her birthday.

Comments

  1. Now, this is just plain marvelous! Thank you, Nya, for sharing your grit with us.

    I definitely subscribe to your ending message – whatever you write is yours. That’s what I tell writers and wannabe writers I meet all the time – nobody else can tell YOUR story!

    I also encourage them not to worry about not getting it all perfect the first time they write – nobody does and nothing will ever be perfect, but if you get something written down, then you have material to work with, a draft to play with and tweak and polish.

    You go, girl! Actually, you’re already going! At full throttle! I hope to see your name on many books to come!

    • Nya Wilcox says

      I love taking something a little bit old and turning it into something new and exciting and yours. I really enjoy rewritten fairy tales for that reason. Maybe I’ll try one!

  2. Chris Bailey says

    Thank you for the Monday morning burst of excitement. Now, off to write!

  3. My own twelve year old will be pleased to hear that her mother has been schooled by an eleven year old. And such wonderful words of wisdom from Nya, too! Many thanks for this post.

    • Nya Wilcox says

      The blog post helped me too. I got a knowledge for the non-fiction writing a lot of authors have to do at times like these.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Nya!

  5. Delightful, absolutely delightful! Can we bottle her and sell her? I want one sitting in my office when I get up in the morning. I’d open the bottle and just let the scent of her enthusiasm waft out over the room, along with that smile of hers! Thank you so much for sharing. I’ll forever feel guilty for saying “I can’t” because you said “I will”.

    • Nya Wilcox says

      Whenever I hear myself say “I can’t” I’m reminded of a day at my gymnastics when my coach threatened to make anyone who said I can’t stay behind while the rest went on to a different trampoline to do something fun. I accidentally said it, but she was merciful and let me go. But that experience still keeps me from saying I can’t if I’m thinking about what I say.

  6. Eric Troyer says

    Great suggestions! I’d be careful about the stay-up-late, get-up-early suggestions. Getting enough sleep is important to your health and mental processes. Cutting distractions is huge! Hard to do these days, but you showed the advantages of doing so. Congratulations on getting your book published!

    • Nya Wilcox says

      My siblings watch this TV series that has new episodes all the time. I had to stop watching it while working on the book. I kinda felt bad every time I heard them watching a new episode, but I got over it. Now I hardly ever watch that show, and don’t miss it.
      I used to have a hard time sleeping, like, getting to bed. Getting up super early, for writing and my gymnastics practices, made me realize how much I liked to sleep. Now I get as much as I can. My new book I’m creating isn’t on a deadline, so I can relax. (A little.) But getting up early was a necessity. I’m not saying everyone should do it, but the house was quiet. Same with night.
      Staying up late to write helped me think. Night is when I think about things, and at about eleven-o-clock I get a second wind. So instead of slowing me, late night writing was a staple.
      And if you want to publish a book without talking to a ton of publishing houses, I totally recommend Kindle Direct Publishing.
      Thanks for the support!

  7. Wow, this was so inspiring for me! I absolutely loved this!

    • Nya Wilcox says

      Thank you! Every time I hear that someone was inspired by my book, it makes me want to work harder on my next one.

  8. Thank you!

  9. M.R. Spann says

    Congratulations, Nya! I started my novel at age thirteen, and my many mistakes and total plot overhauls dragged the process out nearly five years now. I finished my “first” draft last year, and am now revising/rewriting a ton of it. You are an encouragement! Time to buckle down and finish the thing!

  10. Melissa Plantz says

    I loved this post! Nya hit all the reasons we give for not starting (or finishing) our books. Good luck to you, Nya! I hope to read more of your work.

    • Nya Wilcox says

      Finishing is super hard. But remember, you can go to other people for ideas. My dad was my suggester and editor, and mainly he came up with the ending climax battle part. I was a little stuck there.
      And if you liked Phoenix Feathers, well, I have two new books in progress!

  11. I need a dad like Nya’s. He is a great cheerleader.

    • Nya Wilcox says

      Totally. He was so great, encouraging, bribing, and editing.
      Your cheerleader doesn’t have to be your dad. Anyone you trust and look to can help you on in writing.

  12. She’s written a novel, AND she writes a better blog post than most adults.

  13. Maria Kinnersley says

    I’m gobsmacked! She’s very good. And she nailed it for me on Excuse Number One. I use that a lot:-)

  14. Hi Nya and Katie,
    That blog is a breath of fresh air, a splash of cold water. I’ve been worrying about where to take my story and I realise it’s not going to be beaten unless I scrabble at it consistently. Then it’ll crumble before me. I’m polishing one book for publishing in a couple of months, but I’ve got to get back in the flow with the next.
    What are you working on next, Nya? A sequel, or a whole new world? Ta.

    • Nya Wilcox says

      Both, actually. I like double writing. It’s refreshing for me to be able to switch worlds whenever I want, if I get bored of one.
      Phoenix Feathers needed seriously to be hit every day. Just 20 words helped me stay in the rhythm.

  15. Abigail Sarah says

    Thank you so very much for your brisk and helpful advice, Nya. I’m *incredibly* impressed. Your dedication and poise would be admirable in someone three times your age!
    You’re on an incredibly great track — don’t let anything (including possible future doubts of adolescence) make you deviate.
    Keep reading (wow, at 30 books a month no wonder you have a vocabulary and fluidity of writing better than most adults) and keep writing! You’re an inspiration.

    • Nya Wilcox says

      Writing has been my dream for so long, starting the book was easy. My dedication through the middle was mostly the bribe. At the end, I nearly sputtered out, but my dad lifted me up. Now my other book starts are going easier, thanks to Phoenix Feathers! I gave inspiration to myself, too.

  16. Hi Nya. Thank you for this post! I love your straightforward approach to excuses. It’s important to acknowledge them so that you can actually conquer them.

    “The novel was the thing I needed, but the Lego set is the thing I wanted.”
    This made me smile. Katie often reminds us of the importance of establishing a character’s needs as well as their wants, and how it impacts the plot. (Your need & want impacted your plot to publish perfectly!)

    I started reading your book online and was drawn into the story immediately. I’m adding it to my TBR list. Thanks for your insights! Best Wishes!

    • Nya Wilcox says

      A need to get home, a need to find the feathers, and a need to save Rennon were pretty basic, but I feel they were pretty good. Try to make things exciting for yourself so you don’t want to use excuses.

  17. Aidyn Ryder says

    Wow. Thanks so much! I’m also fourteen and I did NaNoWriMo too and I now have 150 pages or something. I got tired of the story, however, so I’m going to finish it in a few years. I did get another idea for a story though that I really, really want to write but I was feeling nervous about writing it til now. Since someone close to my age can write and get published, maybe I can too…

    • Nya Wilcox says

      Phoenix Feathers got very boring at the end. I didn’t even look at the pages for nearly a month after it was published. I just felt “Okay, I did this, I’m done.”
      That’s why I double write a lot. Not on a tight time like NaNoWriMo, but when I have plenty of space to stretch out. It gives me a thrill to switch from back and forth in worlds, and when I get bored of typing one I just switch to the other. Try it!
      I can’t really advise on the nervous writing. I didn’t feel that, since I wasn’t even thinking of publishing until my mom saw a publishing help on Facebook. Thinking of people I don’t know reading my book is what makes me nervous. So I sent the story to all my grandparents and had their positive feedback first to boost me. Good luck!

  18. Connie C Williams says

    Thanx for the inspiration, Nya. You are awesome!

  19. Nya Wilcox says

    I love giving inspiration! Especially when it fuels someone else to start a book. My cousin, brother’s friend, and a few others have started because of me! It gives me a cool feeling.

  20. Nya Wilcox, a name to remember. I think a lot of us will be looking for you to pop up again in the future – possibly using your words in influential ways beyond writing novels. Thank you for your wisdom, Nya.

  21. Alana Mercy says

    This was a super helpful post! I can be a big procrastinator and I’m working on becoming more disciplined, my goal is to write every day.
    I’m impressed and challenged to get writing! Thank you!

  22. Natalie Aguirre says

    Congrats, Nya! You’re such an inspiration. And I saw myself in a lot of those excuses, like not having enough time and not feeling good enough. You’re inspiring me to be better starting NOW! Good luck with this book and your future ones.

  23. Nya,

    This is a wonderful article. Well written, honest and useful, it covers the struggles writers face. Your advice as good. I wish you luck in all your writing adventures!

  24. Nora Spinaio says

    She’s 11. I have no excuse. But, I did copy the link to FB. 🙂

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